Sunday, February 28, 2010

Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings

Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings

Sunday evening, Feb. 28, 2010
As Beth and I treated patients in the hospital this morning, we listened to the sounds of a large group of people wandering from one area to another singing hymns and then praying for the patients in the room. Patients and visitors joined in and added to the joyful noise. The one hymn that I recognized was Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings, one of my favorites. If ever there was a time and place that needed a fount of blessings, it is now in Haiti.

BethEllsworth, my PT colleague at Parkland, arrived safely last night after a gut wrenching ride over the mountain road in the dark and pouring rain. The drivers here think nothing of passing on a blind mountain curve, honking their horn and flashing their lights as they go. Two goats may have been sacrificed along the way; the driver did not stop to check. Travel here is not for the faint hearted! We celebrated the end of the journey with some good Haitian rum.

Tomorrow I begin teaching in the Rehabilitation Technician Training Program, as I did last summer. I will, once again, teach the unit on Skin, Wounds, and Burns. Thank goodness for Parkland! It is a very appropriate unit to be teaching now, as the hospital is loaded with trauma victims with terrible wounds, many requiring repeat surgeries, skin grafts, and muscle flaps. And, as they have often noted in the news, MOST of the amputees will need at least 2 surgeries, as the first was so often done under terrible conditions leaving an open wound that must be treated before a prosthesis becomes an option.

As Beth and I went through the wards today and worked with the patients, I told her that she could have my favorite today--a small boy with multiple fractures, wounds, and nerve injuries who has a smile that lights up the room. Exercise is often painful, but he never complains beyond twisting his face into a terrible grimace of pain. I know that many of you warned me not to bring home any children, but he is a temptation! He has only his sister here caring for him, so I am not sure what home situation he has to go back to.

Hope you are all doing well. All the donations that you made for the hospital will be well used.

A deman, Judy

Saturday, February 27, 2010



Saturday afternoon, Feb. 27, 2010
I do think that some cosmic force in the universe is trying to tell me to let go of my American obsession with time. First the bag with the alarm clock was lost. Then the bag was returned with the alarm clock (and 2 bars of soap, go figure) missing. This morning I set my watch alarm for 6:30. I awoke at 6:15, looked at my watch and rolled back over for a 15 minute snooze. When I next awoke, my watch read 12:00 AM! My theory is that the alarm went off and I did not hear it. This must have short circuited the watch. So, I am trying to ease up on worrying about time, especially units (that last a private joke for the Parkland folks).

I started late today around 8:30 but stayed until 2:00 seeing 14 patients. I was definitely flying without a net! The Haitian PT staff does not work today and I had no translator. The patients were amazingly patient and cooperative with my very limited Texas version of Haitian Kreyol.

After my halting greeting in Kreyol, one sweet young woman this morning asked me if I spoke English. She then told me that she was learning it in school and wanted to practice. We completed the entire treatment in English and she taught me how to say ‘wait on me’ in Kreyol and to understand when the patients are saying that back to me!

To the delight of his family, I sat up a head injury patient today who is beginning to wake up and come around much to everyone’s amazement. He is still confused and quite a handful, but does not seem to have any paralysis and may end up doing quite well. This is especially amazing given that there are no CT or MRI scanners here and no access to Neurosurgery. Head injury patients are only given supportive care and if there is continued bleeding inside their head, they expire in a few days. This patient will, hopefully, be one of the exceptions who lives to be rehabilitated.

It was cool this morning for Haiti (tepid for Dallas), then muggy this afternoon and now pouring rain. After work I took a long muddy walk down the ‘corridor’ looking for drinks and snacks. I was a one person parade especially to the children who called out BLAN as I walked by. One of the experiences that Haiti brings is the knowledge that you are always on display. You can never “blend in.” Coupled with that is the constant sensory stimulation--sights, sounds, heat, humidity, odors, vehicles speeding by honking their horn, people constantly flowing past. It is impossible to fully describe or capture other than to BE here.

Just got word that Beth Ellsworth has been picked up at the airport and is on her way. Can’t wait for her to get here and have Rum waiting (found that on the walk today)!

Will get this sent off to be posted; access goes down in 15 minutes.

A deman, Judy

Friday, February 26, 2010

Despair and Joy

Haiti Blog 2010

Despair and Joy

Thursday Evening, Feb. 25, 2010
The day on the wards began with the wailing despair of a Mother who had just lost her small child to malnutrition. Death here is noisy and public. Families in a hospital at home are given privacy; here everyone sees and hears the agony of the loss. The small body was moved to the hallway on a low cot and covered with a blue plastic tarp. Later in the day a family member (the father?) gathered up the child and carried him away, still wrapped in the blue cover.

At the end of the day I sat in the PT Dept making notes and listened to the loud joyful sound of a small child singing his heart out in the nearby public shower. Cold water, no privacy, no problem. He was having a great time; the true Zen path of fully engaging in and enjoying the moment.

Around 5:00 we had a wonderful tropical downpour that cooled everything off nicely. Today was HOT, humid and dusty so the rain was much needed. I snuck in a little nap while it was going on, also enjoying a Zen moment.

I don’t know if it rained in Port au Prince, but if it did, I imagine that all the people crammed into tent cities and broken homes are suffering greatly. I cannot claim too much credit for helping with the ‘dire conditions in Haiti’, as overall it is quite comfortable here. The water is off now until 6:00 AM tomorrow, but we have electricity and a fan in the bedroom. The showers are cold, but it feels really good to get clean. I found some decent packaged cookies in the market place today and there are plenty of soft drinks. No beer, but there is some rum. On the whole, nothing to complain about.

Supplies are pouring into Haiti, but there is never enough. All of the walkers in the PT Dept are broken, and we have one elderly patient who I don’t think is going to be able to manage crutches. I watched a patient leave the dept yesterday with one crutch on the right side and her left arm draped over a family member, hobbling along non-weight bearing on one leg. When I asked the Rehab Techs why the patient did not have a second crutch, they told me she had a wrist fracture. So she needed a platform crutch, which we do not have. Before I left Parkland, I looked longingly at a well worn rolling patient cart in the hallway that was headed for the trash heap. That old cart would be a shining star here in Haiti! If only we could get it here along with thousands of other lightly used pieces of bulky equipment that are so desperately needed here. Single use items in the US are reused many times here and passed from patient to patient. In our eagerness to prevent the spread of infection, I am afraid that we waste a HUGE amount of perfectly good supplies in the US. There has to be a middle ground of patient safety vs. reasonable reuse.

Small moments continue to be the most rewarding. Late this afternoon I did some stretching on a little girl with burns on her chest and the front of her right leg. She laughed and called me ‘blan’ (blanc in French, whilch translates to foreigner in Haiti). When I tried to put her on her stomach to stretch her hip, it was too much and she sobbed and cried. So I pulled out a pink balloon and blew it up for her. Tears changed to smiles and she batted this simplest of toys around and played with her Mother.

Running out of steam so will close. I will probably not get this posted until tomorrow evening.

A demen, Judy

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Feb 24, 2010
Arrived safely yesterday after bumpy flight. Ride to campus was mostly in the dark--very surreal with candles and small fires along the way and one larger fire on the mountaintop. Crashed into bed after late dinner, as we did not get on campus until 8:30. Medical rounds at 7:00 AM as usual. Saw patients all dayTuesday and today along with the Techs. Many earthquake victims with amputations, wounds, fractures, burns, usually more than one diagnosis.
Net access terrible so writing this in bullets and will hope it goes through!

The hospital is flooded with patients, estimated about 120 now for a facility made for 80 beds. Immediately after the quake, there were 800 people here waiting to be treated.

It is HOT, but not as bad as summer. Bad news--NO beer in the entire country. UN bought it all. Going to go out and look for some rum.

Fascinating lunch yesterday with multi national planning group for rehabilitation in Haiti. There is a prosthetist here at HAS and people are actually getting legs! It took an earthquake with thousands of deaths to awaken the world to Haiti. Surely there should have been another way to do it . . . . .

The experience of working with the patients is exhilerating and exhausting as usual. This AM on rounds the MD'S were examining the leg wound on a young woman while I watched from beside her at the bed. As she groaned and tried not to cry out, she reached for my hand and squeezed it. Then when the pain became worse, she let go and grabbed my arm. No words to express that kind of connection.
Judy sends an email saying she is OK and communicating even by email is difficult. She hopes to post on the blog soon.
John Daniel

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Getting the computer set to return to HAS. This is the PT Dept. that will be waiting!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trying to get a flight

Still trying to get a flight to get back to HAS to help out with the many patients recovering there and to teach in the Rehabilitation Technician Training program. One commercial flight was cancelled. Two charters for medical professionals did not fit the schedule. Trying again for a commercial flight, but no one knows if they will actually take off. The airport in Port au Prince is badly damaged.
In the meantime, gathering supplies especially ace wraps for amputees.
Stay tuned.